Betty Wilson -- My Story - Part 1

This is Betty's Side of the Story...

My Story
By Betty Wilson

              When I was first asked to write my story, I hesitated for a long time. Why, I asked myself, should I expose myself to more hurt and humiliation. I don’t want anyone to pity me or feel sorry for me. I’m not a strong person but I can take care of myself.

            But my friends have had to suffer in silence too long while the media distorted everything about me and my case.

Even at my trail I was advised to remain silent for fear anything I said might e misconstrued. Maybe it’s time to talk now.

            So where do I start?

            I was born on July 14, 1945 in East Gadsden, Alabama. My family was what I have always called ”typical lower middle class,” with my father working as a policeman and my mother in a factory. I had three sisters, one of whom is my twin. Contrary to the books that have tried to portray my family as being somewhat dysfunctional, we should have been, but mother made up so completely for Daddy’s absences and drunks that we never felt any lack of love or attention.

            Shortly after graduating I married my high school sweetheart. Looking back over the years I realize now we were just kids. My husband was a good man but we both knew we had gotten married too young.

            After we separated in 1969, I rented an apartment at the Imperial Gardens.

At that time it was a fashionable singles complex where everyone knew everyone, and partied almost every night.

            Oh, I’ve heard the stories and read the books about me that talked about the wild partying the drugs and the heavy drinking that went on there. Some of it was true, and I make no apologies for it.

It was also the “liberated seventies” and we were all young and single, without a care in the world.

I still had to pay the bills though and I soon found a job at J.C. Penney’s. After paying rent and making car payments there wasn’t much left to live on, so I took a part-time job at the Cosmopolitan health club, working evenings. I really enjoyed that job and met many people who are friends of mine to this day.

A woman from the health club talked me into applying for a job at the Humana Hospital and gave me a recommendation. I became a “unit secretary” (word clerk) and from the very first day I loved it. I could hardly wait to get to work every morning! As I became involved with the patients I realized this was what I wanted to do with my life. I know it sounds silly; I had grown up wanting to be a scientist, an artist or even the owner of a dress shop. Being a nurse had never entered my mind, but never the less I decided to become one.

After I received my nursing degree I became interested in kidney dialysis and soon became proficient at it. The work was demanding and the hours long but in a way this was one of the most satisfying periods of my life. Often times at night I would go home and just crash on the bed, to tired to even undress.

I met Jack while working at the hospital. It would have been hard not to have noticed him. He reminded me of a little boy with an impish smile on his face all the time. He was one of the kindest people I had every met and regardless of how busy he was, he always had time to stop and talk. He was always teasing me about something or the other and calling me “brown eyes” in front of the patients.

We ere both involved in relationships with other people and I really didn’t think much about it until one day when a patient Jack had operated on went into kidney failure. I was on call and we worked late that night, barely exchanging words except to monitor the patient’s condition. A few days later Jack called my supervisor and asked if I was engaged or involved. He even asked my age and “is she intelligent!”

Our first date was a basketball game, sharing a bag of popcorn. That was about all either of us could afford at the time.

Looking back, Jack and I never really dated. On our second date he suddenly announced that if we were going to spend the rest of our lives together, he may as well move in with me! That was fine with me. I was already madly in love with him and would have done anything he asked me to do. It was also an easy move; everything he owned could e put in a couple of cardboard boxes!

The subject of marriage never came up at the time. He was still a young doctor building his practice and my career was going great. To be honest about it, we were both so busy we were happy to just take each day as it happened.

About a year later I was offered a job as an executive with a company in Atlanta. The job offered a fantastic salary with travel and all kinds of executive perks but I was in love with Jack and didn’t want to leave him.

Murder of Dr. Wilson
BettyWilson--My Story Part 1
BettyWilson--My Story Part 2
The Confession of James Dennison White
Poll: Who Plotted to Kill Dr. Jack Wilson?
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Free Huntsville Newsletter

            It was Jack who finally talked me into taking the job. We were both still young; he pointed out, and had the rest of our lives to be together. Jack had always pushed me to do as much as I could and now he said if I didn’t take the job I would always wonder if I had made a mistake. Those weren’t the words I wanted to hear, but deep down in my heart I had to tell myself if it was meant to be, it would be.

            The new job was exciting. I traveled a great deal, often in a company jet. I had a plush executive office that even had a fully stocked bar built in. The job was demanding, but satisfying at the same time. If there was a dark spot, it was my missing Jack.

            Many people claim that absence makes the heart grow fonder, but in our case, it just became more expensive! Two-hour telephone calls became nightly rituals, and almost every day brought a letter or card from Jack. Every weekend we could getaway from work I flew to Huntsville or he flew to Atlanta. Sometimes we would both be so tired from working all week we would just curl up with a book and read to one another.

            Our world came crashing down in 1978 when Jack told me he had to have an operation. He had long suffered from Crohn’s disease and now it progressed to the point where an operation was necessary.

This meant removing part of his lower intestine, forcing him to wear a plastic bag for the rest of his life.

            There was never really any doubt as to what I would do. I quit my job, gave up my apartment and moved back to Huntsville to be with Jack. It was more than him just needing me. We needed each other.

He used to tease me by saying that with all of our faults, if we could put both of us together we would have one normal person.

            Shortly after an operation, Jack and I got married. The first time I signed my name, “Mrs. Jack Wilson” I thought my heart would burst with ride. I must have spent hours just practicing writing my new name!

            My husband was a lovable eccentric with absolutely no need for material things. When I tried to explain to him the benefits of computerizing billing, for instance, he asked, “Why? Isn’t a pencil cheaper?” Finally, when he saw my frustration, he merely grinned and said, “Besides, that’s what I married you for!”

At other times he was extravagant. One time he came home from the office, with a sheepish look on his face, and told me he had accidentally run into my car. “I think I tore it up pretty bad,” he said. With that, he took my hand and led me outside. A brand new Mercedes convertible was sitting in the driveway!” Oh well, he laughed. “We can’t have the neighbors thinking you’re the maid!”

Like all marriages ours had its problems but strangely enough none of them had to do with sex. Jack and I were both grown people who believed what we did in our bedroom was our own business, as long as both of us agreed.

Yes, I had “affairs”, but I never cheated and neither did Jack.

We had other problems though many of which were my fault. For years I had been a heavy drinker and now that I was a “Doctor’s wife” it got worse. The days seemed to revolve around Bloody Mary brunches, martini lunches and evening cocktails.

I never felt comfortable around many of the other wives and drinking seemed to help. The first time I attended a Medical Auxiliary meeting I was already half smashed and it was only 10:00 in the morning! And I wasn’t the only one!

I had always been a “verbal” person but now with my drinking and social insecurity, I became even more vocal. Many times I found myself saying outrageous things solely for the shock value. Once, when a doctor'’ wife complemented me on my marriage to Jack, I responded by saying that Jack was the one who should be complemented!

The look on her face was worth it!

My life reached a low pointy in 1986 when my doctor told me I was an alcoholic. Up until 1984 I had never thought about my drinking. It had never caused me any problems. Then I had an attack of pancreatitis and the doctor said it was from drinking. I stopped drinking for two months with no problem. Then one night we went to a dinner party where everybody was drinking wine and having a good time, except for me. There was an interesting person there I wanted to talk to but I didn't have the courage to start a conversation. I needed a drink and the table was covered with filled wineglasses so I took one.

For the next two years I drank more than ever without realizing what I was doing. When I was drunk I would say horrible and nasty things, often attacking the people who loved me the most. Fortunately for me, I don’t remember many of the things I said, but Jack did.

Murder of Dr. Wilson
BettyWilson--My Story Part 1
BettyWilson--My Story Part 2
The Confession of James Dennison White
Poll: Who Plotted to Kill Dr. Jack Wilson?
Free Huntsville Newsletter            

After I had been sober for about two years we talked about it once. Jack told me he used to think to himself, “Maybe she will start drinking earlier in the evening and pass out sooner.”

Joining AA was one of the best things that ever happened to me. Not only did it sober me up, but it gave my life a new direction by making me realize I could help other people in the same situation. I became an active member of AA; often giving talks about alcoholism and encouraging others to seek help.

Ironically, that’s what got me in trouble.

I had attended a school play that my sister Peggy’s children were in and while there had admired a playhouse that one of the other teachers had hired a carpenter to build. I was impressed with the work and asked my sister about the carpenter possibly doing some work for me. I wanted some “old-fashioned” screen doors built for our kitchen door and the doors leading out to the pool but couldn’t find anyone to do it at a reasonable cost, (or anyone who would even show up for a small job).

The carpenter, Mr. White, my sister explained, was a recovering alcoholic and needed the work because he was on disability. In my own way I probably thought it was perfect, he was AA and he needed the work and I could help!

I asked my sister to have him come to my house and give me an estimate. Mr. White was supposed to have come on a Tuesday morning but after waiting until almost 1:00 PM, I finally gave up and went to an appointment I had.

Just in case, however, I left a note on the door instructing him where I wanted the screen doors.

Though he never showed up or called, I didn’t really give it much thought. I had dealt with enough contractors to know this was “par for the course” for many of them.

The following Friday I was getting ready for an AA weekend retreat at Guntersville Lodge, in the state park when Peggy called.

She told me that Mr. White had called her and was threatening suicide as a result of is drinking. Peggy has one of the kindest hearts in the world and after having suffered with me through the years of m alcoholism, she knew I would be sympathetic also.

I told Peggy to have him come to the meeting and I would see that he received help. When Peggy told me she thought he was broke, I said I would leave some money in my car, under a book for him to pay for lodging and food.

The next night the front desk at the hotel had me paged and told me that Mr. White was at the gate. Apparently the guards would not let him into the parking lot where my car was. Reluctantly I told them to tell him to wait at the gate; I would have a guard bring him the money. When I got to my car I looked for an old envelope or something to put the money in but when I couldn’t find anything, I simply placed it inside a book and told the guard to give it to the man at the gate. I didn’t give it much thought. I really thought I would have the book back in a few minutes.

When Mr. White didn’t show up at the meeting, I knew it had all been a con job. Furious at letting myself be ripped off I got his hone number from Peggy a few days later and called him.

When he answered, I told him off saying he was nothing but a thief and a low life con man.

The following week m niece (Peggy’s daughter) was rushed to the hospital and I dropped everything to rush to her side. After we returned to Peggy’s home, Mr. White called informing her that he was ready to do the work on my house. When Peggy tried to tell him that I was no longer interested in using him, I grabbed the phone from her and told him in blistering and no uncertain terms exactly what I thought as well as demanding my money back. He said he had already spent the money and began whining about what a hard time he was having. Disgusted, I finally just hung up and marked it off to experience.

The following Friday, May 22, 1992, was a busy day for me. The pool man and the yard people were coming by and Jack was supposed to pick up the grandchildren after work.

I had also invited a friend, who had company from California visiting him, to stop by sometime that day. His friend was an architect and was interested in seeing some of the landscaping designs in Huntsville and when he heard about my “rock pile backyard” expressed an interest in seeing it. I explained I would be busy most of the day but they were welcome to stop by anytime they wanted to even if I wasn’t home.

Murder of Dr. Wilson
BettyWilson--My Story Part 1
BettyWilson--My Story Part 2
The Confession of James Dennison White
Poll: Who Plotted to Kill Dr. Jack Wilson?
More Huntsville Articles
Free Huntsville Newsletter
Huntsville Events Calendar

Jack and I were leaving for Santa Fe, New Mexico the next morning on vacation so most of the afternoon was spent shopping and running last minute errands. That evening I grabbed a quick hamburger at McDonalds with a friend and then went to an AA meeting.

Late that evening after the meeting I returned home and was halfway up the stairs when I saw Jack’s body lying sprawled in the hallway. Something inside me told me it was not an accident.

It’s easy to say what you would do in a time of crisis but the harsh reality is that no one knows. I remember dropping my packages and falling down the stairs. I remember banging on a neighbor’s door pleading for help. I remember all the police and the ambulance and a policeman telling me that Jack was dead.

The next day or so is almost a complete blur in my mind. I spent the night at the home of one of my sisters and it seemed as if there were people constantly coming and going. A doctor friend of Jack’s spent a lot of time with me giving me tranquilizers and trying to calm me.

That Sunday I met with a detective who asked about my whereabouts on the day Jack was killed. I told him everything I could remember even which stores I had visited at about what times and what I had purchased. He also wanted a list of everyone that had access to our house, or might have worked for us. Atone point he asked if I ever had any affairs.

I told the truth and said yes, and when he asked for them, gave him the names. I held back one name, though.

Tuesday, the day of Jack’s memorial service, was emotionally devastating. Up until then it had been like a bad dream but now I had to face the fact that Jack was really gone and I would never see him again.

Going home after the funeral was the hardest part, to know that it was over and there was nothing I could do for Jack any more.

About 8:00 that evening a detective came to take me down to the station for some more questions. Ever since I had last talked to them I had felt guilty in holding back a name of someone I had had an affair with. I knew he couldn’t possibly be a suspect and I knew it would cause him untold embarrassment.

Now I told him and from the look on the detective’s face, I wondered if I had not made an even bigger mistake.

He works for the city, doesn’t he?”

I said yes.

“Isn’t he married?”

I said yes again.

Left unasked was the question he already knew the answer to...”He’s black isn’t he?”

The questioning became harsh and accusatory. They accused me of hiring a man by the name of James Dennison White to murder Jack. At first I denied knowing him for I had referred to him as Mr. White or Mr. Carpenter. Finally when I realized whom they were talking about, I tried to explain but they wouldn’t listen. They said they had arrested James White and he was in the next room where he had already given a complete confession implicating Peggy and me. They said they also had Peggy and she was confessing everything.

I knew they were lying because neither Peggy nor I had done anything to confess to!

At one point they told me they had a man coming to give me a polygraph test but when I told them I was willing, they dropped the subject. Instead, they began hurling more accusations and questions at me. All I could do was say no, no, no. It’s not true! I remember asking them if I needed a lawyer and they told me, “No, not yet!”

I had been taking heavy doses of Valium for several days and had not hardly slept since Jack’s death. I was a complete emotional and physical wreck and barely remembered some of the questions. At one point when they left me in the room alone, I actually fell asleep in the chair. I was wakened when a detective threw a phone book in my lap and told me to look up an attorney if I thought I needed one.

How do I really sit here now and describe that night? Only hours before I was at my husband’s funeral and now I was being interrogated like some plot out of a cheap B grade movie. It was almost like nothing was real; like some horrible nightmare that was too terrifying to actually exist.

Sometime around midnight they carried Peggy and me back to my sister’s home where I was staying and warned us to keep our mouths shut about what happened that night.

We both laid awake all night numb with the realization that we were being accused of something so horrible. We didn’t talk much that night, the whole thing was so incomprehensible we didn’t know what to say and we were scared to death. We just lay thee waiting for daylight to come.

Murder of Dr. Wilson
BettyWilson--My Story Part 1
BettyWilson--My Story Part 2
The Confession of James Dennison White
Poll: Who Plotted to Kill Dr. Jack Wilson?
More Huntsville Articles
Free Huntsville Newsletter
Huntsville Events Calendar

The next morning my brother-in-law knocked on the bedroom door and told us that Jack’s murderer had been arrested. Peggy and I both just stared numbly at him. Neither one of us were up to talking about what had happened the night before. In a way it was almost like if we didn’t talk about it, maybe it wouldn’t be real.

A friend of mine drove me around town that day and helped with the arrangements.

After we did this we went to his place to eat something and rest. One of the first things we did was wash our clothes. Peggy had only brought what was on her back and most of my clothes were still at my home. Everything we had was dirty. While my clothes were washing I put on a man’s pajama top.

That was a mistake.

Suddenly, there was a loud banging on the door and when we answered it we were placed under arrest. Handcuffs were put on our wrists and we were led outside where a mob of reporters and photographer had already gathered.

All the headlines that day were different but they all had the same meaning: “Rich bitch who had affairs arrested for murder.” And then, as if to prove the point, everyone showed pictures of me wearing a man’s pajama top insinuating that I had been caught in the midst of another affair!

How many times can a person describe events as being horrifying without the word finally losing its meaning?

Peggy and I were locked in separate isolation cells where we spent the whole night crying. The other prisoners jeered at us calling us lesbians and telling us to get used to it that we’re going to be here for a long time.

My attorney tried to explain to me what happened. James White had been arrested for Jack’s murder and in exchange for not being sent to the electric chair, implicated Peggy and me.

He claimed he was having an affair with Peggy and agreed to kill Jack for $5,000 to prove his love for her. To bolster his claim, he told the police of phone calls and of meeting me in Guntersville to pick up “expense money” hidden in a library book.

How do you say something is ridiculous when you are sitting in jail charged with murder? Regardless of how absurd the story was, my lawyer still had to prove White was lying.

At first it appeared as if that would be easy. White first claimed that he had come to my house to pick up the $2,500 “down payment”. When that story didn’t play out, he said he picked it up on the side of a highway where I had thrown it out. That story was so far fetched he had to change it again, finally coming u with a story about picking it up at Peggy’s home.

Murder of Dr. Wilson
BettyWilson--My Story Part 1
BettyWilson--My Story Part 2
The Confession of James Dennison White
Poll: Who Plotted to Kill Dr. Jack Wilson?
More Huntsville Articles
Free Huntsville Newsletter
Huntsville Events Calendar